October 28, 2014

Thinking of doing a Hangout? Read this first!

Wearing a virtual cat face on a Google Hangout
This is not going to be a technology article, so if that's what you were hoping for... sorry!

Nope, just good ol' fashioned presentation advice, but the kind you need when you're going to be on camera.

I recently watched a Google Hangout where the content was all good, but the speakers' on-camera performance left much to be desired.

Just a few simple adjustments would have made this presentation so much better, and I would have been able to focus on the content rather than the distractions of the visuals.

Here are some tips for you whether you're live on a Hangout or shooting a DIY video for later upload.

1. Place your webcam at or above eye level

When you sit at your desk, your screen tends to be a little bit lower than eye level, unless you have a really high desk or a massive monitor. But when you shoot a Hangout or video, you don't want to be looking DOWN at your audience, which is what will happen if you keep your monitor where it is.

If you're using a laptop, elevate it on some books or a box, so that you're looking directly into the camera or even looking up a bit. If you're using a standalone webcam (anyone still use those?) position it the same way.

2. Actually look AT the webcam

I'm shocked when I watch a video or Hangout, and professionals who should know better are looking down at the screen instead of into the camera. Just because you're looking at someone's face on the screen, doesn't mean you're making eye contact with your audience. If you want to make eye contact (and your audience wants you to), you must look INTO the webcam lens.

This takes practice, and it helps some people to tape a picture of someone next to the lens. The more you get used to talking into the camera, the easier it becomes.

3. Put on some powder

Yes, guys, even you. The last thing I want to see on a livestream is some sweaty, shiny guy on the other side. I'm the least likely person to tell you to wear makeup, because I don't enjoy wearing it, and it's actually one thing that keeps me from shooting as much video as I should.

But you don't need full stage makeup, just a little something to even out a blotchy complexion and keep you from blinding the viewer. A little basic street makeup for women, and at least some powder for men is required to keep you from looking either shiny or washed out on the screen. And guys, that powder will need to go on your pate as well, if you're losing your hair. Just sayin'.

4. Pay attention to your backdrop

If you don't have a nice backdrop at your desk, fake one. Ruth Sherman taught me to put a plant or some flowers behind me to liven up (and lighten up) the scenery, even if I have to put them on a step stool.

Your audience can't see what's holding it all up; they just want something pleasant and non-distracting behind you instead of saggy drab curtains, a mishmash of books and knickknacks, or a big piece of drywall (which is what you would see behind me at my desk if I let you!).

You don't have to have a fancy studio setup or expensive lighting when shooting video or live Hangouts. But as a professional who wants to be seen as an authority and an expert, you do have to come across as someone who knows what they're doing and has the confidence of a pro. And the last thing you want to do is distract your audience with these piddly but noticeable mistakes.

Making these little tweaks to your appearance and to your performance will make a subtle but important difference in how your audience perceives you, your credibility level, and overall, your ability to make a connection and build a relationship with your audience.

October 17, 2014

Information doesn't excite your audience

Photo Credit: Dan Harrelson via Compfight cc
A client told me the other day that his wife says he never knows when to shut up. And he recognizes that this is a problem when he speaks.

He told me he's afraid that if he doesn't give enough information, the audience won't be as excited as he is.

Of course, this inspired me to create a teleseminar called "How to know when to shut up," and I'll keep you posted when that's ready!

But for now, let's just address this issue of giving a ton of information so people will get excited.

Do people get excited from information? Not really.

What excites people is your own emotional engagement with the topic.

What excites people is discovering how they'll benefit from what you're saying, offering, doing, sharing.

Information has never excited an audience, I'm sorry to say.

All information does is overwhelm your audience. It makes their brain freeze up and stop accepting new information. It's called cognitive overload. (This article explains it well.)

What's the best way to make sure you're not overwhelming the audience? Leave some stuff out!

I know it's hard to do this, because we think they need to know everything we know. And that's usually a bad idea.

It's much easier to give too little information and then let the audience fill in the gaps with their own questions, than it is to give too much information and leave them overloaded and ready for a nap.

You can always ask, "What more would you like to know about this?" or "What did you feel was missing from what I covered?" Leave room at the end to address some of their answers.

And hey, they can always e-mail you, Facebook you, Tweet you or just call you. You are not going to disappear off the face of the earth once you walk out of the room. If you do your job, and the audience is engaged, intrigued and inspired, they will seek you out for more.

And isn't that better than leaving them drowning in content, filled to the brim with so much data, that their brain is no longer processing and their eyes have glazed over?

I'm guessing you'll say yes.

October 9, 2014

Want to be a better speaker? You have to take action.

Which one of these sounds like you?

>> You enjoy speaking, and you know you could make a bigger impact if you could just tweak your skills.

>> You "get by" when giving presentations, but you know you're nowhere near the top of your game, and you need to step it up.

>> You don't enjoy speaking at all, mostly because you don't really know how to create and prepare for a presentation, and thus have no confidence in your ability to pull it off.

These three scenarios describe about 90% of my clients. I do have clients who are already good speakers, they enjoy speaking, and they have a high-stakes presentation coming up that's outside the realm of what they've done before. But the majority are in one of the three camps mentioned above.

The question is this: You know you need to change, so what are you going to do about it?

Are you going to keep lamenting your circumstances, or are you going to step up to the plate and make a decision that will take you in the direction you need to go?

Are you going to make excuses to yourself about why you can't get help to implement the necessary changes (it's always money or time, right?) or are you going to find a way to make it happen?

Are you fed up with being stuck in the same place for so long with no apparent solution?

I know I was. 

At about the five-year mark in my business, I had the sudden revelation that I was flying by the seat of my pants. For FIVE YEARS, I had been making things up as I went along, grabbing this free training and that free PDF and piecing together a mishmash of materials whenever I needed to learn something new. 

And my business was stagnant.

So I finally decided to take a leap of faith, and started investing in my business. I invested in a small program at first, which taught me how to systemize aspects of my business that still had no rhyme or reason. Then I invested in a bigger program, that had me flying across the country for a three-day training.

Then I took the leap (literally, into Alicia Forest's LEAP Studio), and invested in a 9-month group coaching program. This series of events caused my business to take its own leap forward, and every year since that I've invested in my own training, my business has continued to grow -- and I've made all my investments back.

I'm telling you this because I know how it feels to be stuck, to wish that we could just magically change things without investing time or money. I offer a lot of free teleseminars, e-books, and this blog. But free will only take you so far.

So I invite you to invest in your public speaking improvement, the impact you make on your audience, the growth that you will see in yourself and in your business, through my upcoming program, "Speak to Engage: 7-Step Shortcut to Public Speaking Success," starting on October 21. 

It's virtual, so you can attend from anywhere, by phone or by computer.

It's recorded, so you can listen at any time if you can't make one of the sessions.

It's fun, especially when people show up and participate in the live calls and in the Facebook group!

There's a nifty early bird rate, some great bonuses, and a 2-pay option, all available until October 17

And... it's super affordable. It's dip-your-toe-in-the-water affordable. It's maybe-someday-I'll-work-with-Lisa affordable. It's I-know-I'm-ready-to-stop-stagnating affordable.

Will you take a look? And let me know if you have any questions. I hope you'll take your own leap - and join me!

P.S. It's my ninth anniversary this month of my coaching business! If I hadn't taken that leap a few years ago, I would certainly not be where I am now.

October 7, 2014

How do you like me now?

Playing around with a new look, just the reverse of the color scheme I've been using for 8 years.

Change is hard, and this blog needs a serious design overhaul, but I think this is a step in the right direction.

I also want it to look more like my website, as much as is possible with completely different design tools.

What do you think? Please comment!

October 3, 2014

Is being emotional a positive in business?

Barbara Corcoran posted the following question on Twitter during last week's Shark Tank episode: "What do you think - is being emotional a positive in business?"

Of course, as a speaker, my immediate answer was "Yes!" Then I pulled up the responses, and they were overwhelmingly negative:





"Can work both ways. Most of the time, it's not a good thing."

"Was just saying 2 myself crying in business 2 me is such a turn off. No matter how moving."

"I think it's good to be emotionally vested but not a good idea to let your emotions run the show."

"No. emotions can make you look weak and you never want to look weak in business."


To be fair, there were a few people who saw the positives of emotion in business:

"Emotional investment is a must, however, know your audience. Know when to pull back & when to show passion."

"I think the old saying is flipped...it should be, 'It's not business, it's just personal.'"

"ABSOLUTELY! Passion breeds hustle!"

"Yes! passion lights the fire to move your business to a whole new level."

"Yes - if you're in control of them."

The reason she asked this question is that one of the entrepreneurs pitching the sharks started to cry when he explained why he was trying to get his business funded. His girlfriend's parents don't approve of him and won't let her leave Japan to be with him. When he becomes "respectable," he hopes her parents will relent.

It was a moving scenario, and I imagine there was just a little bit of nervousness and anxiety underlying this outburst due to standing in front of the five sharks!

But here's what I interpreted from the answers to Barbara's questions: The "good" kind of emotion is called "passion." The "bad" kind of emotion involves crying and leads to being perceived as weak.

I found it an incredibly narrow and shallow view of what constitutes emotion.

Do you want to intrigue your prospect (or your audience)? Do you want them to be curious? Do you want them to feel frustrated with the way things are going and to buy your service or product so they can improve their circumstances? Do you want them to laugh and feel connected to you when you're on stage or when they see your funny commercial? Do you want them to feel superior to others who don't buy your product (there are companies who do)? Do you want to piss them off so much that they take action?

Do any of these emotions I've mentioned above involve crying or weakness? Or even passion?

I also understand that Barbara asked the question very specifically with the words, "being emotional," which has its own connotation, that is, using emotion inappropriately.

But I'm going to argue that using emotion, or "being emotional" (because after all, we're human, and humans are emotional creatures) is a critical tool in business and for speakers.

Emotions are complex, varied, universal (but individually triggered in different ways) and powerfully motivating.

Why would you limit your use of your own emotions to move your audience to take action?

Why would you limit your ability to affect your audience's emotions in a way that makes them feel connected, curious, enthusiastic, greedy, hungry, hopeful or one of a hundred other touchy-feely words that -- by the way -- prompt your audience to engage with you in a way that serves them and brings you more clients, more visibility, more income, or whatever else it is you are trying to achieve?

No, don't get up on stage and bawl your eyes out. And haranguing and yelling at your audience is only going to make them hate you.

But hey, even a heartfelt and spontaneous catch in the throat or slight tearing up is okay with most audiences. And if a show of emotion from a speaker or businessperson is truly not welcome, then you must be speaking to a roomful of cyborgs. That's an article for another day!

September 17, 2014

So many great learning opportunities -- Join me!

I've got several super cool projects going on this month and next, and I want to make sure you don't miss out!

1. Bloom Your Online Relationships 30-Day Challenge

We are slightly more than halfway through, but you can join at any time, and you'll still have access to all the activities and the Facebook discussion group.

This is a challenge to focus on building relationships rather than list-building, fan-building, follower-building, and much of the stuff we spend time on when we're building online businesses.

The daily challenges are fun, thought-provoking, and creative, and I've found a few that resonated with me so much that I instantly implemented. And it's FREE!

Read about it here. My tip was posted on Monday, and it was about giving your community a gift "just because." You can read my tip here, but make sure to sign up to get all 30!

2. Outstanding Presentations Workshop

This webinar series, hosted by PowerPoint expert Ellen Finkelstein, features weekly guest speakers who will reveal their secrets and strategies on presenting and using PowerPoint effectively.

This program has already started as well, but you can sign up and get all 7 recordings, plus handouts and bonus gifts for just $17! That is a ridiculous price for all the presentation and PowerPoint expertise you're going to get!

My presentation is on September 30, on audience engagement, and this is not a presentation that you will ever see online or for this low price, as it's reserved for corporate and conference clients. Again -- $17 for all of these trainings? Don't let this opportunity get away!

Register here.

3. Interview for The Boomer Business Owner

I recently recorded a podcast interview with Charlie Poznek of The Boomer Business Owner on how public speaking can help you grow your business. Some of the points we covered include:

* The importance of audience research when creating a presentation
* Why you are the face of your brand at all times
* How to find affordable public speaking training
* Why passion trumps perfection in all great speeches
* Why you don’t need to have great speaking techniques to move your audience

There's also a special link on that page for podcast listeners for a rockin' deal on my Audience Avenger Alliance membership program, so check that out, too!

Listen here.

4. Speak to Engage: 7 Step Shortcut to Public Success is coming!

This is my most popular program that I only run once a year -- and it's coming back in October!

Save the date for this one: October 21. Registration isn't open yet, but you can visit the page and read about it here.

There will be special early bird rates when I open the program for registration in September, AND I will be offering a first-time alumni rate for clients who have taken this course before or purchased the home study program and want a refresher, so stay tuned.

Get all the updates on this program and special early bird rates by joining my mailing list.

September 4, 2014

Drowning your audience? Try these 3 lifesavers.

I'm currently participating in the Bloom Your Online Relationships Challenge, a 30-day free program to encourage relationship-building with our online communities, and today's challenge dovetails perfectly with a post I've been wanting to write. (P.S. My offering in the BYOR challenge comes up on September 15, so make sure to sign up so you can get my tip!)

Today's challenge is about "being incomplete," leaving out details so others can participate and fill in the gaps.

And recently, I've had conversations with a couple of speakers who have a really hard time with this.

The conversation usually goes something like this: "I have too much to say in X amount of time." Or, "I have trouble explaining what I do because it's so complex and detailed." Or, "People just don't get it."

And these comments come with an exasperated tone and a clear disappointment in the audience, that the audience is just too clueless to understand without lots of lecturing.

What I really want to say when I hear this is "Get over yourself!" But that wouldn't be very constructive.

Here's what I mean.

Speakers and subject matter experts often suffer from the "Curse of Knowledge," described by Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick as what happens when our knowledge about a subject becomes so great that we have trouble communicating that knowledge to others. It becomes so hard for us to imagine NOT knowing what we know, that we can't fathom how others don't understand us when we share.

We speak over our audiences' heads, we give far too much detail, and we pack our presentations so full of information that our audiences leave numb and slack-jawed from the mental barrage.

And do they retain anything? Not much! Especially when all this information and detail is delivered in lecture format. Because some of us are so convinced that we need to use every minute to speak that we forget about interaction and engagement.

How can you fight the Curse of Knowledge? Don't just expect your audience to approach your topic with beginner's mind and to be open to new ideas, but approach it yourself with beginner's mind.

Even if you've given the same presentation a hundred times, next time you prepare for an engagement, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What does the audience really need, want and care about?

2. Is there enough white space for them to think about and process your ideas?

3. How can you help the audience best grasp your ideas through activities, questions, and engagement?

[What else would you add? Is one of these harder for you than the others? Please share in the comments!]

And I'm serious when I say "Get over yourself." Nobody can share everything they know about a subject in the kind of time frame we have for presenting. It's a given. It doesn't mean you're that much smarter than everyone else, or that your topic is so much more complex than your audience can ever understand.

It just means that you know a lot! Which is why you've been invited to speak. So enjoy it, and remember that your knowledge comes with responsibility.

Always remember that it's your job to make sure that you present in a way that your audience can gain value and relevant tools to make their lives and work better. If your audience doesn't get it, take a look in the mirror (or at your video, which I hope you record from time to time).

And figure out what you can do to make your topic accessible and yourself approachable to your audience by creating a presentation that doesn't drown them in information, but rather leaves them feeling curious, intrigued and wanting more.

What else can you do to fight the Curse of Knowledge in your presentations? Please share in the comments!
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